Monday, February 28, 2005

Special Post

I'm keeping this post at the top of the page for a few days. New posts will be directly below it.

Kevin Benderman is going to face a court-martial. Background posts on Sgt. Benderman are here and here.
Sergeant Kevin Benderman, 40, missed his unit’s deployment flight last month after giving his commanders notice that he planned to seek a discharge as a conscientious objector. Benderman said he had become opposed to war after serving in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Benderman will be tried by a general court-martial – the most serious form of court-martial – on charges of desertion and missing movement. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison, reduction in rank to private and a dishonourable discharge.

No trial date has been set.
  Scotsman article

If you can spare any financial support for Sgt. Benderman's defense, please consider donating here. If not, please consider passing along the word of his situation and sending emails of support and encouragement to the Bendermans.

Soldiers who have performed acts of great cruelty, torture and murder of innocent Iraqi civilians are getting off with much less severe penalties. Some get nothing at all. (Update on the marine who was caught on video killing an injured man in a Falluja mosque is here. And the video here.)

Meanwhile, in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq Feb 28, 2005 — A suicide car bomber blew himself up Monday in a crowd of police and Iraqi national guard recruits south of Baghdad, killing at least 106 and wounding 133, police and witnesses said. It was one of the deadliest insurgent attacks since President Bush declared the war over in May 2003.

Associated Press Television News footage showed large pools of blood outside the medical clinic, located on a dusty sreet. Scorch marks infused with blood covered the clinic walls and dozens of people gathered at the scene helped put body parts into blankets. Soles of shoes and tattered clothes were piled up in a corner.
  ABC article
Human Rights Watch raised a red flag over US plans to deploy a new system of remote-controlled anti-personnel mines in Iraq (news - web sites).

The New York-based rights watchdog said the US Army had failed to answer critical questions regarding the potential harm the mines might pose to civilians.

The new system, called Matrix, allows a soldier with a laptop computer to detonate Claymore mines remotely via radio signal from several kilometers away.

While Claymores normally propel lethal fragments from 40 to 60 meters (130-200 feet) across a 60-degree arc, Human Right Watch said US Army tests indicated that the hazard range for the new system was as far as 300 meters.

"A faraway blip on a laptop screen is hardly a surefire method of determining if you are about to kill an enemy combatant or an unsuspecting civilian," said Steve Goose, executive director of the watchdog's arms division.
  Yahoo News article

The old bear was just hibernating

Ignoring U.S. objections, Iran and Russia yesterday signed a nuclear-fuel agreement that is key to bringing Tehran's first reactor online by mid-2006.

The expected but long-delayed deal dramatized President Bush's failure to persuade the Russians to curtail support for the Iranian nuclear program during his summit last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  Seattle Times article

I guess Pooty-Poot was neither charmed by the goofy schtick, nor intimidated by the slightly veiled threats and badmouthing Russia's "democratic values".

I can't remember where I read it - a comment on somebody's blog: Iran has all that oil - what do they need nuclear power for?! Implying that the only reason is for weapons. A typical knee-jerking, America-the only power for the globe, everybody else is out to destroy us comment. Forget about the negative aspects of nuclear power for a moment. We use it anyway. As for the desire of another country to get into the nuclear energy business, this kind of comment refuses to take into account that nuclear energy is supposed to be cleaner. It also ignores the fact that for people from an oil-producing country, the inevitable price of oil will make them much richer by selling it to foreign consumers and using another type of energy for domestic consumption.

And never mind that nuclear weaponry could be its only defense against an aggressor state with nuclear weapons.

Under the deal, Russia will provide nuclear fuel to Iran, then take back the spent fuel, a step meant as a safeguard to ensure it cannot be diverted into a weapons program. Iran also has agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor the Bushehr site and the fuel deliveries.

The White House and State Department declined comment.

Unions under pressure?

I just heard on c-span's broadcast of the State of the Black Union symposium, that every labor organization in the country is under IRS audit. Do any of you know if this is true? Email me: oldusa100 at


Six of Diamonds handed over by Syria

Syria handed over a highly wanted half-brother of Saddam Hussein who is suspected of funding and planning the post-war insurgency, Iraqi sources say.

Iraq's government announced the capture of the former Saddam Hussein aide Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti.

Iraq did not comment on Syria's role but the Iraqi sources said Damascus had acted under international pressure.


"The Syrian authorities, because of the tremendous pressure on them, did something about Ibrahim," a source described as a "senior government official" told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity in Baghdad.

"Having so many problems on their plate at the moment, the Syrians were willing partners in this, but the Americans and we were also involved."

BBC correspondent Jim Muir notes the Iraqi government is neither confirming nor denying the reports for now.

If Syria has indeed handed him over, he adds, it could represent a major climbdown by Damascus which has consistently claimed that such people are not operating from its soil.


Thair al-Naqib, a spokesman for the Iraqi government, said Mr Tikriti had been arrested "on the Syrian-Iraqi borders".

Speaking to Arabic TV channel al-Arabiya, he added that details of the capture would be released to the media "soon".
  BBC News article

Syria shouldn't think this might appease the U.S. and prevent an attack by USIsrael. No efforts of man will stop that. Unless Syria would like to buy into the debtor program.
The Iraqi officials did not specify when al-Hassan was captured, only saying he was detained after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in a blast that killed 16 others.


Capt. Ahmed Ismael, an Iraqi intelligence officer, said al-Hassan was handed to the Iraqis Sunday. Another Iraqi official said Syrian security forces expelled al-Hassan after he and his supporters had been turned back in an earlier attempt to cross the Syrian border into Lebanon and Jordan.
  ABC article

Free speech? Hardly.

When the Federal Communications Commission fined Clear Channel Communications $27,500 last year for each of eighteen incidents of "indecent material" spouted by shock jock Howard Stern, it sure seemed like a lot of money. But in retrospect those fines look like chump change. On February 16th, the Bush administration won House approval for a bill that would raise the maximum FCC fine to $500,000 per violation. Under the new measure, Clear Channel -- and Stern himself -- could each have been fined a total of $9 million.


If the bill passes the Senate, Bono saying "fucking brilliant" on the air would carry the exact same penalty as illegally testing pesticides on human subjects. And for the price of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl, you could cause the wrongful death of an elderly patient in a nursing home and still have enough money left to create dangerous mishaps at two nuclear reactors. (Actually, you might be able to afford four "nuke malfunctions": The biggest fine levied by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year was only $60,000.)

If Bush has his way, Howard Stern may soon have a tough choice to make: Tell a sex joke on the air, or dump toxic waste in New York's drinking water while willfully placing an employee at risk of injury or death?

ChoicePoint in the spotlight

The nation's giant in personal-information collection, which announced recently that it had unwittingly handed at least 145,000 Americans' Social Security numbers and other private records to a ring of crooks, is also a major government contractor, providing the tools in sophisticated homeland security screening and law enforcement surveillance efforts.


Erick Stakelbeck, senior writer for the Investigative Project, a Washington D.C-based counter-terrorism think tank, said it would be just as possible under these circumstances for potential terrorists to steal identities and use them to carry out actions against Americans.
  Fox News article

It's also the company that gave Florida to Bush in 2000 by virtue of its "scrubbing" of voter lists.
"If a company this central to this [surveillance] process is this careless, I think we should definitely step back and wonder about data mining."
You think?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

These people are just plain scary

"How many of you out there think ministering the Word is unpopular?" the Rev. James McDonald asked a rapt crowd of hundreds at the opening ceremony of the National Religious Broadcasters' convention. A beefy, bald-headed evangelist Air Jesus: With the Evangelical Air Forcewith a folksy style and an uncanny resemblance to Jesse Ventura, McDonald spent his 30 minute sermon harping on a theme that would dominate the convention: Christian persecution.

For five days inside the Anaheim Convention Center, from February 11-16, the NRB's attendees conducted business as if they were huddled in the catacombs of Rome rather than welcomed guests at a self-contained suburban city of paisley-carpeted hotels, all-you-can-eat buffets and climate-controlled conference halls directly across the street from Disneyland. Indeed, when McDonald asked attendees for a show of hands in affirmation of his question, nearly every hand in the room shot up.

It might seem ironic for McDonald to invoke the spectre of persecution at the convention of a group that represents the interests of 1700 broadcasters and which enjoys unfettered access to congressional Republicans and the White House. The NRB's influence was best summarized by its new CEO, Frank Wright, who, in describing a recent lobbying excursion to Capitol Hill, said, "We got into rooms we've never been in before. We got down on the floor of the Senate and prayed over Hillary Clinton's desk." Wright went on to rally support for the NRB's handpicked candidate for FCC commissioner, whom he refused to name, and rail against federal hate crime legislation because, "Calls for tolerance are often a subterfuge when everything will be tolerated except Christian truth."

I watched the movie "Hotel Rwanda" last night. My stomach was in knots from five minutes into it until the end. Throughout the entire story, a hate-radio announcer kept calling the Hutus to heinous acts of slaughter, calling the Tutsi "cockroaches". The ultimate success of hate radio. How long before these "persecuted Christians" are calling out, "Onward Christian soldiers" in literal earnest? If you don't think the faithful would respond to the call, then you need to move to Missouri.

Following is an excerpt from the film's website:

In visiting Rwanda, George was also able to see the incredible beauty of Rwanda and to investigate the politics of the extremist Hutu government, how their radio station RTML spewed forth hate and venom towards the Tutsi and how prejudice and fear drove ordinary people to believe that they had to massacre their neighbors in order to preserve their existence. “If I had to point to the one factor that sparked this genocide,” says George, “it was that radio station. We feature that radio station as a character in the film. I need people to understand the power of that propaganda.
Given the NRB's political muscle, the persecution mentality that undergirded its convention seemed more like a justification for its members' aggressive profiteering and politicking than a cry for social justice.
And that is exactly what it is. And for the faithful, persecution mentality justifies hate talk.
The Christian Right's dominionist intentions, a theme of the convention, were particularly in evidence at a seminar called, "Taking Over Cities For Christ: The Thousand Day Plan."


While at the NRB, Ryan [Dobson, 20-something adopted son of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson] explained the logic behind his latest book, 2Die4, a sequel to his other ghostwritten masterpiece, Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid. "Kids today are looking for something to die for, they're looking for a cause," Ryan said. "If you give them something to die for, they'll go to the edge of the earth for you. Kids like that give me hope for revolution in America."

Now we know where Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) thinks the weapons of mass destruction are buried: in Syria, which he said he'd like to nuke to smithereens.
Speaking at a veterans' celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, on Feb. 19, Johnson told the crowd that he explained his theory to President Bush and Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) on the porch of the White House one night.

Johnson said he told the president that night, "Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore."

The crowd roared with applause.

  The Carpetbagger article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Global empire - corporatocracy

This is why Venezuela's Chávez talks 'crazy talk' about being targeted by Washington for assassination. I thought I'd posted something about the book by John Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - but I can't seem to locate the post. At any rate, this is a link I just came across to an interview with Perkins on Democracy Now!

This should be required viewing for everyone. Of course, most people outside the U.S. already know about it.

Click graphic to watch the interview.

The land of the free

Watch your backs. Bloggers beware. And kids- you can't even trust your grandparents. Finally, the country is running the way BushCo intended.

According to its CEO, the AARP-trashing ad conservative group USA Next put together wasn't so much to trash AARP as it was to bait left-wing bloggers.


The ad was justified, the group argued, because the Ohio branch of AARP had opposed an anti-gay-marriage referendum in the state. But the real reason, said USA Next's CEO Charlie Jarvis, was pure political provocation. The ad was a "test," Jarvis said, to see whether "left-wing bloggers" would "focus entirely on one image and explode about it. My guess was right."
  Newsweek article

William Poole, 18, was taken into custody Tuesday morning. Investigators say they discovered materials at Poole's home that outline possible acts of violence aimed at students, teachers, and police.

Poole told LEX 18 that the whole incident is a big misunderstanding. He claims that what his grandparents found in his journal and turned into police was a short story he wrote for English class.


"My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."


"It didn't mention nobody who lives in Clark County, didn't mention (George Rogers Clark High School), didn't mention no principal or cops, nothing," said Poole.


Even so, police say the nature of the story makes it a felony.


On Thursday, a judge raised Poole's bond from one to five thousand dollars after prosecutors requested it, citing the seriousness of the charge.

Poole is being held at the Clark County Detention Center.
  Lex 18 TV article

What the kid needs is English lessons, not jail.That's the second high school kid arrested for a piece of fiction that I've read about since 9/11 changed everything. It shouldn't be long before left-wing bloggers are being arrested for treasonous and/or terrorist writing.

Joe McCarthy rides again.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Privacy and identity theft - big (government) business?

The Department of Homeland Security has set up a committee to advise them on privacy issues. In theory this seems like a great idea. But the DHS has installed representatives from Cendant, SAIC and Claria on the privacy board.

This is the equivalent of putting Armstrong Williams on a federal advisory board for media ethics.
  Think Progress article
It seems Cendant shared airline passenger information with the government without the passengers' knowledge and consent. SAIC lost some computers containing important personal information on federal credit card holders (more below). And Claria has a questionable past history regarding internet privacy.

What else would you expect from an administration that chooses a torture proponent for Attorney General, a death-squad proponent for National Intelligence Director and a counsel for terrorists and organized crime for Homeland Security Director?

And, I might add to the article's comment on SAIC this from a Venezuelanalysis article in June of 2004...

Venezuelan government officials believe SAIC was using INTESA for espionage purposes in Venezuela due to its strong ties to the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA. Its current and past board of directors include former NSA president Bobby Inman, former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, former head of the research and development division of the Pentagon Donald Hicks, ex-Secretary of Defense William Perry, ex-CIA Director John Deutsch, and ex-CIA director Robert Gates. William B. Black Jr. served at Assistant Vice President at SAIC for three years after retiring from the NSA in 1997. Black later returned to the NSA as deputy director in 2000.
Which brings me to this....

February 25, 2005

Last month, a break-in at SAIC headquarters in San Deigo netted thieves “computers containing the Social Security numbers and other personal information about tens of thousands of past and present company employees.” Former weapons inspector David Kay - whose information was compromised because he used to work at SAIC - said, “I just find it unexplainable how anyone could be so casual with such vital information. It’s not like we’re just now learning that identity theft is a problem”
  Think Progress article
February 26, 2005
Bank of America Corp. has lost computer data tapes containing personal information on 1.2 million federal employees, including some members of the U.S. Senate.

The lost data includes Social Security numbers and account information that could make customers of a federal government charge card program vulnerable to identity theft.

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., is among those senators whose personal information is on the missing tapes, spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
  The State article
I smell a rat. A whole government full of them, as a matter of fact.

Just can't get along with anybody

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday abruptly canceled a planned trip to several Middle Eastern countries that had tentatively been scheduled for next week.

The cancellation highlighted a significant rift with an important ally, Egypt, over President Bush’s push for democratic change. It came a day after Bush’s tense meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who was uncomfortable with Bush’s criticisms of Russia’s democracy as well.

The linchpin for Rice’s trip had been a planned meeting in Cairo of the Group of 8 industrial nations and the Arab League.
  The State article
For some reason, other countries don't like the Bushies lecturing them about democracy.

Australia warns about the effects of a dollar collapse

A top Australian treasury official is warning of a global financial tsunami if there is a U.S. dollar and government bond sell off.

Treasury Secretary Ken Henry compared the flood of money pouring into the United States to support its budget and current account deficits to the stock market's dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, the Australian reports.


Henry is just the latest in a string of recent voices warning about a possible dollar collapse. The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday urgent combined international action is required to head off such a danger.

Washington is running a budget deficit of $430 billion and a balance of trade deficit of $600 billion.
  Big News article

With no signs of reigning in the spending.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Guckert/Gannon hunters on the prowl

I commented in a Feb. 24th earlier post, "Someone is probably right this minute trying to find out whether Mr. Rove and Mr. Guckert/Gannon have a "personal" relationship." Well, there's even a reward (posted Feb. 23) for information, and it's not limited to KKKarl.
A local socialite, who wishes to remain anonymous, has teamed up with this site to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone that can provide hard proof (photos, phone pictures, locks of hair, DNA on a suit) that Jeff Gannon had ANY sexual -- or romantic -- relationship with any top-ranking officials here in Washington.
  D.C. Socialites blog post

How can they possibly be thinking about expanding the war?

When Bush came to power for the first time, the neo-conservatives laid before him a coherent plan for the extension of the American empire in the Middle East. It contained three chapters:

One, to conquer Iraq in order to take control of its immense oil reserves and place an American garrison at the critical junction between the Caspian Sea oil and the Saudi resources.

Two, to break the Iranian regime and return Iran to the American bloc.

Three, to do the same to Syria and Lebanon. It was not yet decided whether Iran would come before Syria or the other way round.

It might have been assumed that the experience of the American adventure in Iraq would cancel the next chapters. The Iraqi people did not receive the occupying army with flowers. The pretext for the invasion - Saddam's weapons of mass destruction - was exposed as a blatant lie. The armed insurrection continues. The future of the Iraqi state hangs in the balance, even after the recent elections. The country may well break up into three parts, creating shock waves all around the Middle East.

Naive people believe that, after all this, Bush would not risk more adventures of this kind. They are wrong.
Read more, including some background on the Syrian-Lebanese situation...
The US government is confident that it will be "no problem" to bomb Iran's defenceless civilian "nuclear facilities". Iran only has one nuclear reactor, but the term "nuclear facilities" that we are all so accustomed to hearing from the Western media sounds like a better excuse for starting another war."
  Insider article

Israeli warplanes in Lebanese airspace

Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace over the south of the country Thursday, drawing retaliatory anti-aircraft fire from the Lebanese army, police said.


UN representative Staffan de Mistura has repeatedly condemned Israel for its continued violations of Lebanese airspace after the May 2000 Israeli troop pullout from southern Lebanon following 22 years of occupation.
  Borneo Bulletin article

But we have no doubt that it was Syria who murdered the ex-Lebanese premier.

On the road to Damascus, Israel will try to provoke military action, opening the door for U.S. intervention.

O Canada

They'll have to be taught from sucking eggs.
The United States will decide when to fire missiles over Canadian airspace whether Canada likes it or not, says America's ambassador. The blunt warning from Paul Cellucci came minutes after Prime Minister Paul Martin announced yesterday that he will not sign on to the controversial U.S. missile defence program.


Instead of joining missile defence, Canada will work on border security, reinforcing coastal and Arctic sovereignty and expanding the military.


[America's top envoy to Canada, Paul Cellucci, responded:] "We simply cannot understand why Canada would, in effect, give up its sovereignty -- its seat at the table -- to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming toward Canada."

The warning was no slip of the tongue -- Cellucci repeated several times that Canada's decision had handed over some of its sovereignty to the U.S.


News of Canada's decision quickly appeared on news websites around the world. Many countries oppose the American plan.


Supporters of the program contend Canada will sit on the sidelines without any say over how the system is used, without any access to billions in related research contracts, and without any political credit from Washington.


Opponents argue the scheme could trigger a new arms race, question why it's necessary in a post-Cold War climate, and note that the anti-missile technology is unproven.
  Canoe article

Yes, but it puts big money in the defense industry's coffers. And that's where BushCo makes their personal profits.

In reality, it doesn't matter what Canada says, if a missile should be launched toward the U.S. through Canadian airspace, the U.S. would attempt to shoot it down. Knowing that, and not expecting otherwise, Canada's refusal to sign on to the program seems to me to actually be wise. They won't be saddled with any of the cost, and the current Martin government will keep the support of the Canadian people. So, actually, they can consider themselves more sovereign by not signing. The U.S. is just going to be pissed and I expect Washington will try to browbeat P.M. Martin, because the refusal is another incidence of another country defying U.S. demands.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

In your face

Too bad Americans can't ever seem to put two and two together. Tom Ridge, recent Homeland Security director has just been seated on the board of Home Depot.
Ridge is quite familiar with home-improvement projects. He was instrumental in a short-lived run on duct tape in early 2003, when he encouraged Americans to turn to the sticky substance and plastic sheeting as protection against terrorists using chemical and/or biological agents.

The move, which drew criticism from many corners, motivated many across the country to stock up -- to the extent that some retailers reported widespread shortages.

Both Home Depot and rival Lowe's Cos. were among the big beneficiaries of the buying binge. Home Depot, in fact, went so far as to set up special Homeland Security displays nears it entrances to tout sales of duct tape, plastic sheeting, batteries and bottled water, among other safe-room supplies.
  CBS article

Destroying Iraq

Cost overruns.
BAGHDAD -- Skyrocketing security costs have forced U.S. officials here to slash $1 billion more from projects intended to rebuild Iraq's shattered infrastructure, dealing another blow to U.S. plans to pacify Iraq by improving basic services.


The slow pace in rebuilding Iraq has raised protests from Iraqis, who continue to suffer from a lack of basic services. Many Iraqi homes and businesses have electricity for only a few hours a day. Raw sewage still streams straight into the Tigris River, just as it did during Saddam Hussein's rule.
  Chicago Tribune article

Blame it on those evil insurgents.
Already, one top Iraqi official said she had to cut back on plans to deliver clean water to residents of the restive cities of Fallujah and Mosul.
What?!? We thought those places were cleared of rebels and happy voting Iraqis were back in their homes.
When Congress initially approved $18.4 billion in November 2003 to help rebuild Iraq, the majority of the money was intended to improve Iraq's electrical and water systems, which had suffered from years of neglect during UN-imposed sanctions. But the reconstruction program has struggled to take off in the face of violent attacks, intimidation of workers and allegations of fraud.

In the face of increasing violence, reconstruction officials have shifted funds during the past few months to improve security, Now, the largest chunk of money, about $5 billion, pays for weapons, uniforms and other equipment to help Iraqi forces quell the insurgency.

And we just cut out another billion.

Do you suppose the Congressional accountants will take that $6 billion out of the cost of resconstruction column and put it in the cost of war column? Me neither.

U.S. officials said the latest cuts will hit water and electricity projects the hardest.
The most basic, most needed, rock-bottom projects? How can any other reconstruction projects do anything without water and electricity? Obviously we have no intention of reconstructing Iraq. Destruction is our true goal.
Halliburton Co., under scrutiny for its contracts in Iraq, would receive an extra $1.5 billion as part of the Bush administration's additional war spending proposal for fiscal 2005, a senior U.S. Army budget official said on Friday
  Reuters article
From the Iraqis to Halliburton, with love.

Meanwhile, let's not forget that Iraq has to pay back the rest of the world, including many multinational corporations, for causing them to suffer.

"This is the first time as far as I know that the UN is engaged in retrieving lost corporate assets and profits," he told the Wall Street Journal in 1997, and then mused: "I often wonder at the correctness of that."

But the UNCC's corporate handouts only accelerated. Here is a small sample of who has been getting "reparation" awards from Iraq: Halliburton ($18m), Bechtel ($7m), Mobil ($2.3m), Shell ($1.6m), Nestlé ($2.6m), Pepsi ($3.8m), Philip Morris ($1.3m), Sheraton ($11m), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449). In the vast majority of cases, these corporations did not claim that Saddam's forces damaged their property in Kuwait - only that they "lost profits" or, in the case of American Express, experienced a "decline in business" because of the invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

Continue reading Why is war-torn Iraq giving $190,000 to Toys R Us?

Welcome to Wal-Mart

In the Dec. 16 New York Review of Books, Simon Head, director of the Project on Technology and the Workplace at the Century Foundation, stated, "the average pay of a sales clerk [italics mine] at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three." That the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour leaves families even farther below the poverty line is a depressing topic for another day.


Typically, full-time is defined as 40 hours a week or more. At Wal-Mart, it's defined as 34 hours a week. So of course Wal-Mart has more "full-time" workers. Fewer hours worked, I need hardly point out, means that Wal-Mart's "full-time" employees are less likely than employees elsewhere to be able to afford premiums for any health insurance they're offered. According to Head, fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees can afford even the company's least-expensive health plan.


In 2003, the most recent year for which I can find data, [H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart,] sucked down $29 million (including stock-option grants). That same year, G.R. Wagoner, president and CEO of General Motors, hauled in about half that amount, $15 million.
  Slate article

This Timothy Noah article is in response to a speech Mr. Scott gave in Los Angeles on February 23 in which he said Wal-Mart is a force for good in the economy.

And this is from a February 23 article at Occupational Hazards:

Less than a week after the U.S. Department of Labor announced it had fined Wal-Mart $135,540 for child labor law violations and agreed to provide the retailer 15 days' written notice before further inspections, the inspector general of the Labor Department said it would look into the agreement that critics are calling a "sweetheart deal."


While Department of Labor officials reportedly have said the agreement is similar to other deals with major corporations, Rep. George Miller of California, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, believes the advance notice would give Wal-Mart stores ample time to hide any evidence of child labor violations and would discourage whistleblowers from filing complaints against Wal-Mart for fear of retribution from the retailer.


The compliance agreement also stipulated the Department of Labor and Wal-Mart "will develop the terms of any joint or separate statement(s) issued by either party announcing this agreement to the media and/or the public." "This would essentially give Wal-Mart veto power over the nature of and timing of the public announcement," Miller asserts on his Web site.

Miller accuses the retailer and the Department of Labor of brokering a "secret arrangement" and then waiting a month before making it public. "The agreement, reached on Jan. 6, only became public because of a reporter's query to the department," Miller contends.


Miller, on his Web site, says the $135,540 fine equals 15 seconds' worth of Wal-Mart retail sales in 2004.


Miller, who called for the inspector general's investigation on Feb. 14, has blasted the compliance agreement as a "favor for a powerful friend and contributor" of the Bush administration "at the expense of workers who do their jobs and still cannot get fair treatment in the workplace."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Ten days in Mexico

What the media industry calls “news” passes through three distinct filters in Mexico. The first, in Spanish… the second, in English… And then, because nearly every major Mexican news story reported in the United States press gets repeated and analyzed as itself being news in Mexico, the third filter consists of how the two versions are reconciled.

To live in the shadow of the United States is no fun even for countries halfway around the globe. For its next-door neighbor, Mexico, it is a special kind of hell.

It used to be that if the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or even Associated Press launched an attack on anyone in Mexico, that person’s days were numbered as a political or economic force. In recent decades, the narco-accusations have been seasonal with every election year. And whether they were true or not, they led to the fall of some players and the rise of others to take their places.

All that has changed with the growth of the Internet. There are, simply put, more holes in the filters now, and the information gatekeepers can’t stop the news from flowing, nor control its content as well as they once did. So when Narco News reported ten days ago that Mexico was on the verge of a social explosion in response to the attempted desafuero against the Mexico City governor’s political rights, foreign correspondents in Mexico City flooded [Mexico City Mayor] López Obrador’s press office with calls, questions, and requests to interview the man of the hour.


He spoke of the “peaceful civil resistance” he and his supporters would undertake if the State took away his political rights to be a [presidential] candidate. He explained why public opinion has turned against imposed free market policies. He called forcefully for Latin American nations to unify including to be able to stand tall against such impositions. He took questions from the foreign correspondents for two hours. And the conversation went way beyond what he called, tongue in cheek, the “small matter” of the desafuero.

  Read more....

Demand for authentic democracy is on the rise in our neighbors to the south. I have posted comments on its rise in Venezuela numerous times. Now, it seems the bug has spread to our direct neighbor - Mexico. I used to say about Venezuela, "Maybe authentic democracy will one day make its way north to us." Perhaps it's getting very close. But don't imagine it will be easy to jump the border. The Powers have things tied down pretty tight - and getting tighter. And at least half of your fellow countrymen are asleep at the wheel. Still, it could happen.

This is especially interesting news to me at this particular time as I am in the process of switching gears for a move to Mexico in the fall. If things go as planned, YWA will be shut down then, and I'll be off on a new and mostly uncharted path.

But things never go as planned.

At any rate, watch Mexico. Presidential elections occur in 2006. And it is appearing that the Mexican people are trending away from Bush Buddy Fox's pick.

I think the rest of the world is getting tired of us.

Ramadi - the next Falluja?

Actually, some people who fled Falluja went to Ramadi - they are in the same Anbar province.
Residents of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province some 100 km east of Baghdad, have started to flee the city following the latest offensive launched by US Marines and the Iraqi army.

The military have carried out raids in the province over the past few days in an attempt to crack down on insurgents, with the main focus of operations eing Ramadi, a rebel stronghold.


Government offices and shops have closed and people are having difficulties getting food supplies as the offensive came quickly and without warning, giving them no time to prepare.


Firdous al-Abadi, a spokeswoman for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), told IRIN that many people had been trapped in the university and inside mosques for over 48 hours as fighting raged outside.

"The government should take responsibility and provide those people with everything that is required for their survival," al-Abadi added. "People are tired of running from place to place."

Al-Abadi also said that the IRCS had sent a supply convoy last weekend to Fallujah, as nearly 100 families were still homeless inside the city after their homes were destroyed.
  Alternet article

And by the way, people are still dying (including soldiers) in action in Falluja.

All Falluja posts

LaBelle sends another link

Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is demanding that two abortion clinics turn over the names, sexual histories and medical records of 90 women who received late-term abortions.

The clinics accuse Kline of mounting a “secret inquisition” that violates privacy laws and patient-doctor privilege, and they have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene.

This is not the first time prosecutors have tried to gain access to abortion records. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to get abortion records last year to see whether federal law was being followed. Medical records are protected in most instances, but the law allows prosecutors to subpoena them for criminal investigations.


The legal back-and-forth began last fall but only became public this week when the clinics filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to intervene. That is because a gag order was imposed on both sides, and all legal documents were sealed.

Kline, who opposes abortion, was tightlipped about his motives Thursday. At a brief news conference he told reporters that the subpoenas sent to the clinics were meant to uncover evidence to be used in investigations of crimes that could include child rape.


Two years ago Kline had called for all health-care providers in the state to report underage sexual activity. A U.S. district judge blocked that move.

In the brief filed this week, the clinics point out that Kline's requests single out women who received late-term abortions, and not specifically young girls who may have been raped. The women all received abortions during or after their 22nd week of pregnancy, which is allowed in Kansas only if the fetus is not viable or if the pregnancy presents a significant health risk to the pregnant woman.
  Kansas article (registration required - use BugMeNot in the sidebar to get around it)

And if you're betting that the laws won't be changed to permit them getting those records, I'd advise you to keep the bet well within limits you can afford. How about putting some of that prosecutorial energy into getting these, and these, protected child molestors stopped and put away?

Not so proud to be an American any more

We need a whole new country. One not so puerile and embarrassing. Not so ignorant would be a plus.

LaBelle sends a story...

WIESBADEN, Germany -- President Bush on Wednesday firmly defended his decision to invade Iraq, displaying his military pride on a tour of European nations that disputed the war.

Speaking to about 3,000 U.S. troops and their families at Wiesbaden Air Base, Bush called the U.S.-led invasion that created tensions with many European allies "a decisive moment in the history of freedom."

"One of the key lessons of Sept. 11th is that we must confront threats before they fully materialize," Bush said. "In Iraq we found a threat to the entire world."

He said that despite a violent insurgency that continues to claim U.S. and Iraqi lives, the democratic progress in Iraq shows the wisdom of his decision.


Before he spoke, about 10 cheerleaders dressed in two-piece purple costumes and white boots danced on stage waving silver pompoms to entertain soldiers, many recently returned from tours of duty in Iraq.
  Stars & Stripes article

The bully has met his match

Iraq seems to be showing Europe that America is simply a bully - a big one, to be sure, but still just a bully.
Philip H. Gordon, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said Europeans were deeply concerned when the Bush administration came into office in 2001 and took a number of unilateral steps, such as rejecting the Kyoto climate change treaty and pushing to abandon the antiballistic missile treaty.

"Europeans were worried we might be right and we did not need them," Gordon said. "They claimed to doubt we were so powerful but were worried we were. Now they see we are not."

He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to Europe earlier this month and Bush's this week are viewed as "an American admission that allies are a little more necessary to us than we thought."


European nations have pressed ahead with negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, despite initial misgivings by the Bush administration. Yesterday, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley suggested Bush was mulling working with the Europeans to persuade Iran to give up the program.

On China, despite strong U.S. objections, European officials have made it clear they will lift an arms embargo imposed after the Tiananmen Square crackdown 15 years ago. European officials have also pressed ahead with setting up a European defense planning operation apart from NATO, rebuffed U.S. efforts to weaken the International Criminal Court and embraced the Kyoto treaty.
  WaPo article

The president and White House officials were all smiles when NATO officials announced a unanimous pledge to increase the number of trainers of Iraqi security forces and to donate more financially to the mission. U.S. officials hailed the contributions as a sign that the White House and European capitals are putting their differences over Iraq behind them.

"Every contribution matters, and every country ought to be proud of the fact that they're contributing to the world's newest democracy,'' Bush said during a news conference. "And I am grateful.''

But NATO's gift looks smaller when unwrapped; in fact, NATO and White House officials refused to provide details of how much countries will contribute, preferring to emphasize only the fact of agreement.


France will contribute one officer to the Iraq training mission -- in Brussels. He will be stationed at NATO headquarters "validating equipment provisions,'' the NATO official said.

Separate from NATO and European Union efforts, France has agreed to train 1,500 Iraqi military police officers in Qatar. ["Iraq hopes to train a homegrown security force of some 270,000 personnel."]

Germany has agreed to train Iraqi military police in the United Arab Emirates and contribute $652,000, according to an independent published summary that officials cited. Belgium is sending 10 driving instructors to the German-led mission in the United Arab Emirates.


"We're very pleased that we have not only unity in theory, but, on the question of Iraq, for the first time in three years, we now have unity of purpose,'' the senior administration official said.

Independent analysts aren't so sure.

"I would call that a stingy gesture of good will,'' said Charles Kupchan, director of Europe Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, an academic research center with offices in Washington.

John Hulsman, a Europe analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, said NATO's pledge "is better than nothing,'' but not by much.
  Knight Ridder article


"In our meeting earlier, I said, 'Vladimir, when we get in here, I think people are going to be very interested in this press conference for some reason. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because you're a leader of a great nation, and I'm fortunate enough to be one, too. But you can see we've drawn quite a crowd here. So I'm looking forward to answering your questions.'"
  LA Times article
I have a feeling that Vladimir doesn't fully appreciate the dufus' schtick.
"Vladimir's been a -- ever since September the 11th, he has clearly understood the stakes that we face. And every time we meet, he is -- we have an interesting and constructive strategy session about how to continue to protect our peoples from attack. He has -- he has confronted some serious attacks in his country. I know what that means, as a fellow leader. I know the strain. I know the agony. I know the sadness. I know the emotion that comes with seeing innocent people lose their lives. And we have shared that. I hope we never have to share it again, that common -- that common situation."
What a putz.
"We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon."
Last Friday, Russia's President Vladimir Putin pooh-poohed the U.S. claim that Iran seeks nuclear weapons, and Moscow agreed to move ahead with delivering the nuclear fuel for Tehran's reactors despite Washington's opposition. And in case you missed the message, Russia has also agreed to supply advanced surface-to-air missiles to Syria, the latest focus of U.S. ire in the Middle East — again in defiance of Washington's stated wishes.

It's hard to avoid the irony in Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's suggestion, in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, that the U.S. should “forgive Russia, ignore Germany and punish France” for opposing the war. On this trip, and Rice's preparatory one, it's more than clear that in fact they're trying hard to forgive France and Germany. And it's equally clear that Russia has no interest in U.S. “forgiveness” — President Putin is ignoring the Bush administration.

Nor is Putin alone in shrugging off U.S. calls to abandon trade deals that threaten Washington's strategic interests. The European Union is going ahead with its plans to lift the arms embargo imposed on China after Tiananmen Square, despite urgings by the Bush administration to avoid selling weapons to Beijing.

In their efforts to put a bright face on the administration's diminishing strategic influence, the Bush administration is accentuating the positive — the Europeans have agreed, they point out, to help train Iraqi security forces. Sure, they've agreed to train 1,000 Iraqis a year at a location outside of Iraq. To put that in perspective, the current U.S. goal is to train a further 200,000 Iraqis by October 1 — in other words, the NATO contribution will amount to 0.5 percent of the total. That's a little like the geopolitical equivalent of a Hallmark good-luck greeting card.


France won't even consent to U.S. pressure to make the relatively meaningless gesture of putting Hezbollah on a terrorist list.


As the old gangster movie adage goes, "You run this town only because people think you run this town."
  Time article (has embedded links)

Another great idea from Der Rumsfiend

The Pentagon is promoting a global counterterrorism plan that would allow Special Operations forces to enter a foreign country to conduct military operations without explicit concurrence from the U.S. ambassador there, administration officials familiar with the plan said.

The plan would weaken the long-standing "chief of mission" authority under which the U.S. ambassador, as the president's top representative in a foreign country, decides whether to grant entry to U.S. government personnel based on political and diplomatic considerations.

The Special Operations missions envisioned in the plan would largely be secret, known to only a handful of officials from the foreign country, if any.
  WaPo article
What a great idea. I don't suppose it would matter to these idiots that foreign countries might see that as not only illegal, but an act of war.

But, hey, it's a great idea to bypass the ambassadors - make them nothing more than titled boobs - because a good number of them might not think it's such a hot idea, either. Some with scruples actually resigned over the Iraq invasion.

Let me just think about this for a moment - the U.S. military sends in Special Ops to "conduct military operations"; the ambassador - along with all the American people working in the embassy - doesn't know about it; the foreign country has a strong objection....."Hmmm, how about we take it out on the American embassy right here in our country? They're sitting ducks, as they haven't been warned or anything."

Over the past two years, the State Department has repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors' formal approval, current and former administration officials said.


In one instance, U.S. commanders tried to dispatch Special Forces soldiers into Pakistan without gaining ambassadorial approval but were rebuffed by the State Department, said two sources familiar with the event. The soldiers eventually entered Pakistan with proper clearance but were ordered out again by the ambassador for what was described as reckless behavior. "We had SF [Special Forces] guys in civilian clothes running around a hotel with grenades in their pockets," said one source involved in the incident, who opposes the Pentagon plan.

Other officials cited another case to illustrate their concern. In the past year, they said, a group of Delta Force soldiers left a bar at night in a Latin American country and shot an alleged assailant but did not inform the U.S. Embassy for several days.

In other words.... what you will anyway.

Hunter S. Thompson - in his own words

On Sunday the founder of 'gonzo' journalism, died at the age of 67 of an apparent suicide. Today we are air a Jan. 2003 interview Thompson gave on KDNK in the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado. An excerpt: "Bush is really the evil one here and it is more than just him. We are the Nazis in this game and I don't like it. I am embarrassed and I am pissed off. I mean to say something. I think a lot of people in this country agree with me - a lot more than are saying anything...we'll see what happens to me if I get my head cut off next week -- it is always unknown or bushy-haired strangers who commit suicide right afterwards with no witnesses."


Thompson killed himself this past Sunday. He reportedly stuck a .45 caliber handgun in his mouth and shot himself while his wife listened on the phone and his son and daughter-in-law were in another room of his house. His lawyer for the past 15 years told the Boston Globe that he wanted to be cremated and his ashes to be blown out of a cannon across his ranch.


AMY GOODMAN: Today we hear Hunter S. Thompson in his own words talking about President Bush, Iraq, and much more. He was interviewed on community radio station KDNK in Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado in January 2003. Former KDNK Station Manager Mary Suma began by asking Thompson, saying the idea of war is not just wrong, but borders on insanity, a comment of Hunter Thompson's, he responded.
  Democracy Now! article

Framing the economy

In his memo on how to manipulate American perception on the economy, right-wing spinmeister Frank Luntz advises conservatives to “resist the temptation’ to use facts and figures about the economy. (You know, all those pesky statistics about lower wages, unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, etc.) Instead, he advises, you can’t go wrong if you continuosly remind people about the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “This is the context that explains and justifies why we have $500 billion deficits, why the stock market tanked, why unemployment climbed to 6%.”


“Much of the public anger can be immediately pacified if they are reminded that we would not be in this situation today if 9/11 had not happened.” It’s also an easy way to get President Bush off the hook: Luntz points out that convincing people that the struggling economy is a consequence of 9/11 (as opposed to, say, Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy) will convince people “it is unfair to blame the current political leadership”
  Think Progress article

Because we Americans are stupid enough to fall for it.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

AARP in the axis of evil

I have been only peripherally paying attention to the stink about the GOP now SwiftBoating the AARP. Here's a funny Josh Marshall post in which he notes that another organizaiton is trying to publicly deny any connection to the slime operation.

Moral values have their price

One of the Mark Twain quotes that appears in the sidebar from time to time is: "Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed." Add...with money in one's wallet.
While its previous owners considered adult entertainment "immoral," Adelphia Communications Corp., the country's fifth-largest cable television provider, last week became the first to offer hard-core adult films on pay-per-view to its subscribers.


While the corporations generate millions in profits from providing adult content, their political contributions are often given to those elected, in no small part, because of their stance on "moral values"...

Adelphia has given $166,000 to Republican committees, $17,000 to conservative Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., and $12,000 to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

Santorum would not comment on Adelphia's decision.


Pornography has never needed much promoting, but it does need distributors. Conservative activists say Adelphia's decision — and the rush of major America companies to profit from porn — is hypocrisy fueled by billions in corporate profits.
  Santorum Watch article

You think?

Health break...Warning to nursing mothers

Scientists on Tuesday reported that perchlorate, a toxic component of rocket fuel, was contaminating virtually all samples of women's breast milk and its levels were found to be, on average, five times greater than in cow's milk.


The findings concern health experts because infants and fetuses are the most vulnerable to the thyroid-impairing effects of the chemical.

The contaminant, which originates mostly at defense industry plants, previously had been detected in various food and water supplies around the country. But the study by Texas Tech University's Institute of Environmental and Human Health was the first to investigate breast milk.


Breast milk from 36 women in 18 states, including California, was sampled, and all contained traces of perchlorate.

Perchlorate blocks the nutrient iodide and inhibits thyroid hormones, which are necessary for brain development and cellular growth of a fetus or infant. A baby with impaired thyroid development may have neurological defects that result in lower IQ or learning disabilities.

At the levels they found in breast milk, the scientists reported that 1-month-old infants would take in enough perchlorate to exceed a safe level, called a reference dose, that was established last month by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences
  Yahoo News article

So now your own breast milk is toxic to your baby. Nice.

The defense industry. Well, more dumber kids means more cannon fodder. Great side benefit.

Bush's wardrobe malfunction

Can't be bothered to learn the protocol of the places they visit...after all, only American customs matter.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Framing Syria

AP reports on a televised confession of someone who said he was a Syrian agent in Iraq in charge of terrorist operations. The confession was broadcast on US-backed al-Iraqiyah television, and was produced presumably by the former Baath domestic intelligence officers appointed by Iyad Allawi.

These confessions are phony as a three-dollar bill...


It is embarrassing that Allawi thought he could peddle this horse manure to the Iraqi and American publics.
  Juan Cole post

Well, I'm sure he can peddle it to the Americans. We're all behind whatever our Preznit says, and our Preznit sez Syria is bad, bad, bad.

New interrogation rules

In a Jan. 12 memo to U.S. military commanders worldwide, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz wrote that the military should not perform "routine detainee body cavity exams or searches" because this invasive procedure "may conflict with the customs of some detainees."
  Reuters article
You know, that conflicts with my "cutoms". Yours?
"Body cavity searches are to be conducted only when there is a reasonable belief that the detainee is concealing an item that presents a security risk," Wolfowitz wrote. The searches "will be conducted in a manner that respects the person" and should be conducted by someone of the same sex, he said.
From now on they will respectfully poke in your ass.
In an interrogation manual nearing completion, Gandy said, requirements of the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners "are well integrated into the techniques" permitted to be used by the U.S. military in interrogations.

"So you'll see a much closer binding of the Geneva Convention laws of war, those kinds of things, with the techniques of interrogations. That would be one of the major changes," Gandy said.
Seeing as how we signed on to the Geneva Conventions some decades ago, it would be only fair that we should adhere to them at this point, eh?

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

And while we're on the subject....

These Republicans are so gay. And so anti-gay at the same time. No wonder the world under their rule is such a conflicted mess.
A dispute between two [Colorado] state representatives over a military license-plate bill escalated into a foul-mouthed threat of bodily injury on the House floor Tuesday.

"If you try that again, I'll ram my fist up your ass," Republican Bill Cadman told his Democratic colleague, Val Vigil, at Vigil's desk during the morning session.
  Rocky Mountain News article
That is a pretty strongly-leaning homosexual activity. Wouldn't be the first thing most people would think of saying in the heat of an argument, I wouldn't think.

...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Jim "Jeff Gannon" Guckert deep

White House press secretary Scott McClellan originally told reporters that Guckert was properly allowed into press briefings because he worked for an outlet that "published regularly." But that's when the questions were about Talon. More recently McClellan offered up a new rationale. Asked by Editor and Publisher magazine how the decision was made to allow a GOPUSA correspondent in, McClellan said, "The staff assistant went to verify that the news organization existed." (Emphasis added.)


In a White House obsessed, at least publicly, with security and where journalists cannot even move between the White House and the nearby Old Executive Building without a personal escort, Guckert's lenient treatment was likely unprecedented.

  Salon article

He has friends.
This is not how the White House press office has traditionally worked. "When I was there we didn't let political operatives in. It was completely contrary to what the press room should be used for," says Joe Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary to President Clinton during his second term.


[In] the past, a reporter seeking a permanent White House press pass has had to first secure credentials to cover Capitol Hill. Without those, the White House would not submit the application for a background check. But even though Guckert failed to secure Capitol Hill credentials, the White House waved him into press briefings for nearly two years using what's called a day pass. Those passes are designed for temporary use by out-of-town reporters who need access to the White House, not for indefinite use by reporters who flunk the Capitol Hill test.


So the mystery remains: How did Guckert, with absolutely no journalism background and working for a phony news organization, manage to adopt the day-pass system as his own while sidestepping a thorough background check that might have detected his sordid past? That's the central question the White House refuses to address. And like its initial explanation that Guckert received his press pass the same way other journalists do, the notion first put out by White House officials that they knew little or nothing about GOPUSA/Talon News, its correspondent Guckert or its founder Eberle has also melted away. Instead, we now know, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer personally spoke with Eberle about GOPUSA, so concerned was Fleischer that it was not an independent organization. (Eberle convinced Fleischer that it was.) Additionally, Guckert attended the invitation-only White House press Christmas parties in 2003 and 2004, and last holiday season, in a personal posting on GOPUSA, Eberle thanked Karl Rove for his "assistance, guidance, and friendship."

Well, well, well, well. We've been suspecting KKKarl is elbow deep in the Guckert/Gannon scandal. Someone is probably right this minute trying to find out whether Mr. Rove and Mr. Guckert/Gannon have a "personal" relationship. Or whether they just have a "mutual acquaintance" in Mr. Eberle and his brother. If I had to bet, I'd take the former. It looks like a certain bet that Rove and Gannon/Guckert have a connection outside Eberle. Eberle might have given Guckert a pretend job, but he hasn't been getting him day passes and party invitations to the White House. And Eberle doesn't mention Scott McClellan or Ari Fleischer on that website thanks for guidance, etc. He does mention Grover Norquist and G. Gordon Liddy, however, which takes the whole thing into another realm yet. The list contains other names I don't recognize, but will try to check out: Mike Hiban, Don Stewart, Paul Teller, Tim Goeglein, Stuart Richens, Matt Smith, Jen Ohman, Bob Johnson, Liz Sheld, Julie Cram, Phillip Stutts, Chuck Muth, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, and G. Gordon Liddy.

Guckert background (last post)

Update 12:45pm:

It looks like Daily Kos already has people checking out the list. I had only gotten as far as finding out Mr. Chuck Muth is an extremely conservative political consultant and campaign trainer, and that Phillip Stutts was campaign manager for an anti-gay Louisiana Governor contender.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Germany won't play by our rules

During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans.

But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice.
  Spiegel online article

About time somebody quit bowing and scraping. But I'm still wondering about their acceptance of the outrageous "security measures".
A few weeks ago, the Bush administration had declared that the chat -- which could have brought together tradesmen, butchers, bank employees, students and all other types to discuss trans-Atlantic relations -- would be the cornerstone of President George W. Bush's brief trip to Germany.
Apparently simply assuming that the Germans would accept the restrictive terms, because....doesn't everybody just do what we want them to? Paris did it for Condi the Lip. (That brilliant move of renaming french fries must have convinced them we are not a country to be trifled with.)
Bush's invasion of Iraq and his diplomatic handling of the nuclear dispute with Iran has drawn widespread concern and criticism among the German public. And during a press conference two weeks ago, Bush said Washington is still terribly misunderstood in Europe.
Oh, terribly misunderstood.
In the end, the town hall meeting was never officially dropped from the agenda of the trip -- instead it was dealt with in polished diplomatic style -- both sides just stopped talking about it.


Bush will now meet with a well-heeled group of so-called "young leaders."


[T]here won't be any butchers or handymen on the elite guest list, but rather young co-workers from blue chip companies like automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank or the consultancy McKinsey. The fact that two American organizations are the ones managing the guest list suggests that the chat won't be overly critical of Bush.


Close to 20 participants will participate in the exclusive round to be held in the opulent Mozart Hall of a former royal palace in Mainz, giving them the opportunity for a close encounter with the president. The chat is being held under the slogan: "A new chapter for trans-Atlantic relations." The aim of the meeting is to give these "young leaders" a totally different impression of George W. Bush. In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group.

Too late. All of Blue State America is embarrassed.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Oh my, what a surprise

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.
  Yahoo News article
Poppy's brother - another Bush in the defense contracting business making profits off the war. Shocking, isn't it?

A surprising poll

Okay, it's a poll, and you know what I think of polls, but if it's even anywhere near accurate, I'm surprised.
More than six in 10 voters believe the United States is ready for a woman president in 2008 and 53 percent of the voters think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, should try for the job, a nationwide poll has found.

The poll, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and sponsored by the Hearst Newspapers, found that 81 percent of voters surveyed would vote for a woman for president; 62 percent said the country is ready for a woman president; and 67 percent said a female president would be better than a male chief executive in handling domestic issues.
I'm quite sure it wouldn't poll that way if you were limiting respondents to the state of Missouri. Or Virginia.

Anyway, I would be no more happy to choose between Condi and Hillary than I was to choose between Butthead and Beavis.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

"Journalists" wanted

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week placed a help-wanted listing on, an employment website. The department sought reporters to participate in TOPOFF 3, a biennial exercise directed by Congress that simulates a terrorist attack on the United States.

The posting, which has since been taken off the site, sought applicants who can write copy for an online news service “reporting events within the exercise for an audience of exercise participants.”

Instead of acting as advocates, the reporters would be prohibited from relaying the results of the exercise outside of the “virtual news network” that is part of the training exercise.

“You must NOT be currently employed by a real news organization and will be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement barring you from writing about this in the future,” the job posting stated.
  The Hill article

The ad wasn't up long. I guess they got their unemployed journalists. Must be the cream of the crop.
Short said the department wanted to hire reporters to help department officials better understand how the media would respond to a weapon-of-mass-destruction attack.
That's a very important thing for this administration to know. However, I think we already have a good idea based on the Twin Towers lack of honest investigative reporting. The administration should be pleased with what the media will do. Besides, if a reporter knows it's only a simulation, how is that going to reflect what he/she would do in the event of the real thing? I wonder how many they hired - and what they'll use them for after this little "exercise".
“We want them to act like reporters and to push the story forward,” Short said. The exercise would help public-relations officials better respond to any real terrorist attack, he said.
That's right. Still fine-tuning their control over the news.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Going down - part whatever

April 2004:

Could foreign governments, like China's, one day use this clout to influence U.S. foreign policy? Most experts say it's far-fetched. But some look at history and the state of modern markets and are worried.


The U.S. has run...deficits for years, but most of the time they were financed by private investors and their purchases were seen as a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy. But in recent years, private inflows haven't kept pace with the growth in the current-account deficit and foreign central banks have stepped into the breach, buying more than $200 billion of U.S. assets, mostly Treasury bonds and bills, last year. They do this to hold the dollar's value up against their own currencies, which makes their exports more competitive.


...but it also gives them a potential financial lever.
  Global Policy Forum article

Feb. 23, 2005:

Reports that South Korea is thinking of diversifying its currency reserves caused market ripples, but a similar hint from China could cause a tsunami.


"China is diversifying, but it is doing it very gradually," said Toru Umemoto, financial markets analyst at Keio University's Global Security Research Center in Tokyo.

"Diversification has been a global trend for years. The euro was born 1999, so it's natural that central banks will include euros in their holdings," Umemoto said. "This is a gradual step, not an explosive force."

But the dollar has spiraled lower against many global counterparts in recent months on concerns that the U.S. won't be able to attract sufficient capital flows to fund its current account deficit.

Because of this, currency investors have tended to panic at any whiff of central-bank diversification.

Last November, Russia set off a similar dollar rout when it said it might put more of its reserves in euros.

Once selling starts, speculators holding dollars run for the exits.
  Market Watch article

February 22, 2005:

The dollar fell the most in more than a week against the euro and dropped versus the yen, Korean won and the Canadian and Australian currencies after the Bank of Korea said it plans to diversify its reserves.

South Korea's central bank, which has a total $200 billion in reserves, said in a report to a parliamentary committee on Feb. 18 that it will increase investments in assets denominated in currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars. Korean investors, including the central bank, are the fifth-biggest foreign holders of U.S. Treasuries.
  Bloomberg article
February 23, 2005:

South Korea's central bank, which holds the world's fourth-largest foreign currency reserves, said it has no plan to sell dollars from those holdings and no plan to change the current portfolio of currencies in its reserves.


"Everybody knows the Bank of Korea has a lot of dollars, so when they said they're not going to sell, it's intervention in verbal form,'' suggesting they may sell won, said Jeff Kim, Seoul-based trader at Korea Exchange Bank. "The market is very worried about intervention'' to sell won "even though there's no action yet.''
  Bloomberg article

Just testing the waters, I suppose.

February 2005

Will the Bretton Woods 2 Regime Unravel Soon? The Risk of a Hard Landing in 2005-2006


The defining feature of the global economy right now is the $660 billion US current account deficit. The world’s largest economy – and the world’s preeminent military and geo-strategic power – is also the world’s largest debtor.


The defining feature of the current international financial and monetary system is that it finances the United States’ enormous external deficit – and the associated fiscal deficit -- at low interest rates. The world’s central banks, not private investors, provide the bulk of the financing the United States needs to sustain its deficits.


Central banks therefore financed 90% of the United States’ $530 billion current account eficit. We won’t know the exact figures on 2004 central bank dollar reserve accumulation until June 2005, but all available information suggest that the world’s central banks did not let the US down. Expect at least another $465 billion in financing from the increase in dollar reserves this year, and an overall foreign reserves increase of $700 billion. If that estimate proves correct, central bank financing will cover around 70% of the 2004 US current account deficit.


So long as private investors holding dollar-denominated assets expect the US current account deficit will be financed, they seem willing to hold on to their existing dollar claims, though perhaps not to add to their exposure as fast as the world’s central banks. But assuming that massive reserve accumulation will continue requires overlooking growing signs that this system is under stress.


If the US does not take policy steps to reduce its need for external financing before it exhausts the world’s central banks willingness to keep adding to their dollar reserves – and if the rest of the world does not take steps to reduce its dependence on an unsustainable expansion in US domestic demand to support its own growth -- the risk of a hard landing for the US and global economy will grow.  (pdf)

February 3, 2005:

Oil, metals and even aircraft may one day be priced in euros, not dollars. Dream on?

As the dollar stays weak on foreign-exchange markets, with little sign of a sustained recovery, there is speculation that at some point commodity prices will drop the U.S. currency. If that happens, it would herald a wider realignment of the global financial system -- and would indicate that the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency was coming to a close.

It is too early to conclude the dollar is finished. Yet the challenge is real and growing. The world may well be set for a period during which the dollar and the euro compete for reserve status -- hardly a promising situation for global stability.


There are three key responses to the changing status of the dollar in the global financial system. Central banks may shift their reserves out of dollars. The Asian currencies could end their pegs to the U.S. currency. And lastly, we could witness a breakdown in the pricing of commodities in dollars.

Central banks are already slowly raising the proportion of their reserves in euros, and reducing their dependency on dollars. That is likely to continue. Yet it will be a slow process -- not least because no central bank will want to dump dollars into an already fragile market.
  Bloomberg article

January 28, 2005:

Central banks are shifting reserves away from the US and towards the eurozone in a move that looks set to deepen the Bush administration's difficulties in financing its ballooning current account deficit.

In actions likely to undermine the dollar's value on currency markets, 70 per cent of central bank reserve managers said they had increased their exposure to the euro over the past two years. The majority thought eurozone money and debt markets were as attractive a destination for investment as the US.
  Financial Times article

January 28, 2005:

There is a limit, said Alan Greenspan a few months ago, "to the willingness of foreign governments to finance U.S. current account deficits." Fan Gang seemed to be saying that the limit had been reached.
  Daily Reckoning article

February 4, 2005:

Russia said yesterday it had abandoned efforts to tie the rouble's movement closely to the dollar and switched to shadowing both the euro and the US currency.


With 81 per cent of Russia's oil exports currently sold to Europe, the move also provoked fresh speculation that Russia could decide to denominate its oil in euros. Russia is the world's second-largest oil exporter, behind Saudi Arabia.


"The rouble's performance has been highly correlated with the dollar. Now it will be more aligned with the euro," said Paul Timmons, economist at Moscow Narodny Bank.
  Financial Times article

January 24, 2005:

The US is running a budget deficit of close to $500bn a year, funded largely by China and Japan buying large amounts of US government bonds


Many of the world's central banks are starting to look to the euro to fill their currency reserves instead of the dollar, a survey suggests.

The poll carried out by Central Banking Publications found 39 nations of the 65 surveyed raising their euro holdings, with 29 cutting back on the US dollar.


[C]entral bank holdings of dollar reserves are losing value.

"Generally, central banks' approach to reserve management is becoming much more active as they search for higher returns," said the authors of the report.

"The euro seems to have come of age."
  BBC News article

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Following the leads in the Gannon scandal

Bobby Eberle: owner of GOPUSA and Talon - "news services" - who hired Jeff Gannon....
Though Eberle was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2000, Texas Republican officials this week declined to talk about him and even denied knowing him.

But Eberle — a former aerospace engineer who has never contributed to a political candidate and works out of his $225,000 home in a sprawling Pearland subdivision of new, color-coordinated burgundy and beige brick houses — finds himself a key player in a tawdry scandal that has captivated Washington.


An engineer with Lockheed Martin until recently, Eberle became interested in politics after hearing about the violent 1993 deaths of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, at the hands of drunken gang members.

He was motivated to get involved, he recalled, because, "There's something really, really messed up in the world."
  Houston Chronicle article

To get the impact of this, you really need to read the Gannon background. There's something really messed up, okay. And did he mention that his brother Bruce has a connection to Karl Rove?
Eberle's older brother, Bruce, runs a conservative Web site, Millions of Americans ( The two sites joined forces in 2004, and Bruce Eberle started referring his readers to Bobby Eberle's site.


"I'm not going to comment because I don't know him, and nobody here does," said Sherry Sylvester, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Texas, when asked about Eberle.

He was a Texas delegate to the RNC in 2000 and the spokeswoman of that party doesn't know him? Probably somebody there knows of him at least, wouldn't you think?
The three stories posted on the Talon site Thursday had no bylines or datelines and seemed to involve no original reporting, taking quotes from televised news conferences and news releases.
By Talon's standards, I could call myself a reporter.
Eberle is a churchgoing Catholic who is against abortion and in favor of prayer in school.

He believes religious people are "almost persecuted" in the United States.
Yeah. Almost.

So he hires a male prostitute to place in the White House press room?

Though his current goal is to grow his media companies, Eberle said he might run for public office "some day down the line."
No doubt.